Saving the World With The Internet of Cows

Mark Anderson

cows-680px

The stalwarts of the mobile age were all there, amid the flurry of product announcements about beautiful, shiny gadgets and virtual reality at the 2016 Mobile World Congress. Seeing Qualcomm, Intel, Ericsson and Nokia taking their place among the displays helps us understand that we are living in an epoch-defining moment, where interconnection drives everything.

Connected cars, connected drones, connected businesses, connected people and connected homes were on prominent display, all powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, 5G wireless systems and SD-WAN capabilities. It all gave off an air of us finally living in the age of the Jetsons.

But all of this blue sky thinking got me wondering: What real case studies can I find where IoT and the cloud really improve age-old industries (keeping our feet on the ground, so to speak)? Because if IoT and the cloud could transform those businesses, it could transform any business.

I found an amazing case study at Fujitsu – The “Internet of Cows.” Fujitsu have developed a SaaS service running on Microsoft Azure that reads and analyses a specially designed pedometer strapped to a cow’s leg to precisely detect estrus or fertility, and determine the best timing for insemination.

It turns out that this has been a difficult problem for farmers to solve down through the centuries. They have traditionally made a visual assessment of estrus signs (i.e., standing heat), but the problem is estrus in over 60% of cases happens at night, when the farmer is asleep. As a result, the farmer misses the window, and conception rates and steady milk yields decrease, all leading to an increase in operational costs for the farm.

Fujitsu have been able to develop an algorithm that can detect, via the higher-than-normal movement rates recorded by the pedometer, that a cow has gone into an estrus state and provide the farmer with an hourly progress report. This enables the farmer to ascertain the best timing to inseminate, detect early conception and predict the due date. They can even detect early signs of disease. All the farmer needs are pedometers on the cows, a small receiver connected to the farmer’s Internet connection (installed within 150 meters of the cows) and a subscription to Fujitsu’s GYUHO™ (Japanese for cow steps!) service.

Farming and agriculture is the hot sector for IoT and interconnection technology, and this is just one of many such cool livestock initiatives being developed by the leading lights of IoT. According to Telefonica, investment in technology for agriculture is expected to reach $4.3 billion this year in the U.S. alone, making it the sector with the greatest investment, ahead of technology applied to the financial and medical sectors.

A recent report by Beecham Research suggests the IoT could be the key to helping the farming industry meet the challenge of increasing food production by 70% to feed the 9.6 billion global population expected by 2050.

So there you go, the world saved courtesy of the Internet of Cows and the interconnection of everything.

For more information on how IoT helps dairy farmers, check out our blog: The Internet of Things – Interconnecting the Herd.